03 January 2006

Helicopter "Stealth Mode"

The impact Hollywood has on the general public can't be overestimated. After "Blue Thunder" was a big hit, I had to explain to more people than you might imagine how there was no such thing as "Stealth Mode" on the helicopter!

The machine I fly weighs just under 7,500 pounds when it is at it's maximum weight. It has to move a lot of air to pick it's fat self up.
There are two 700 horsepower engines doin' a lot of work, and lots of stuff turning in order to get that job done.
The noise it makes is beyond the threshold of pain.

We are aware of the noise, particularly at night.

When I teach students, I tell them, "fly over a guy's house once and he'll say to himself, 'sounds like a helicopter.'
Fly over a second time, and he'll exclaim, 'damned noisy helicopter!'
Fly over the third time, and he'll be saying, 'what's the phone number for the FAA?'"
He has that right. We'd like to avoid that outcome.

I fly straight nights.
I prefer night flying for reasons that started with my tour in Viet Nam, and I'll cover that in detail later.
Night flying can be hard.
Weather can make it more dangerous.
It's also when more of the serious accidents happen, and I do more scene responses than the day guy does. Scene landings are the closest thing to Combat flying you can do as a civilian. They get your blood pumping!

Our aircraft is based at a little airport in a town of 4500 people.
When we take off at 3 A.M., we try to make as little noise as possible.
Even so, most of the 4500 know we are on our way somewhere.

Last week, one of my Flight Nurses was in the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in uniform, standing in line waiting on the cashier. A lady walked up behind her in line and said, "I live just down the road from where you park your aircraft. I hear you guys taking off at all hours of the night."

My Nurse tensed a little for what she expected.......a noise complaint.

Instead, what she heard was, "I just want you to know how comforting it is to hear that helicopter going out to help someone. It's good to know you are here in case we need you."

Isn't that nice?
Warms my heart!


Purple Tabby said...

Yep, that's pretty warm and fuzzy, GB. I gotta tell ya, though, I didn't feel so sweet about helicopters during my Iraqi vacation! They flew mostly at night and always about 5 feet over my tent,,, and they did it all night long! The noise made talking in the surgery suite particularly difficult. Try sign language wearing a mask and gloves.

They gave me a break in Kuwait. No helicopters at night BUT I found my tent sandwiched between 2 generators that were the size of a school buses.

Well, I now have to use a stethoscope for the hearing impaired,,, no kidding!
Oh well, I think it makes me look distinguished.

And I'm glad you do what you do too.

Aviatrix said...

Helicopters are so loud I can barely understand you guys on the radio.

But it's better you than me landing on a highway amidst an accident scene at night.

Greybeard said...

My hooch in Chu Lai was 300 feet from the fuel pit. It drove me crazy for the first couple weeks when a helicopter would come in late at night, land, refuel at idle, then hover off to it's assigned parking spot.

It took maybe two weeks for me to adjust to the noise and sleep through it. Then, the only thing that would wake me was the sound of something OTHER than a Huey, a Cobra, or an OH-6......let a Chinook or a Jolly Green come in to refuel, and I was instantly awake! Our systems acclimate to things amazingly quickly.

In one of my earliest posts on this blog I thanked an old Flight Instructor that forced me to wear earplugs when I flew. He saved me from being deaf now. Contemporaries cannot hear the telephone ring. My hearing is far from perfect, but I still hear some things before Sara Jean does.

No matter.
I intend to wear it all out before I return it anyway!

The Old Man said...

Shoot, after The Boss and I got married (4 days after I came back from my second tour), we went to Ft "Hard" Knox to finish my service time. We lived in E'town and could hear the mortar ranges and what she called "herds of helicopters" all night 'most every night. What puzzled her was the fact that I slept through the racket that kept her up. But as I had to explain to her, "Hon, if it flies it's ours and a guardian angel. And even asleep I can tell the difference between incoming and outgoing...."
She still thinks I'm nuts - but amusing....

the golden horse said...

Hey guy,
I gotta say I do love the sound of helicopters, living here, I get to hear them all. Medical, tours, inter island, military, Coast Guard, you name, we have it. But when we hear one overhead at night, we know it can't be good. I took my first ride in one in 1987 and became totally addicted to them. There is one beach here you can sit on and watch them training several in line and it is beyond kool to watch. Last year we had the Blue Angels here and they got to fly right over us and I gotta tell you that was as close to max on the excitement scale as you can get. They were much closer to us here than they get on the mainland.
Anyway, keep up the great stories and maybe I can even understand a little of what you are writing about. Thank you for your great service for our country and your service that you are providing now.

Oshawapilot said...

It's nice to read that at least some people out there understand the importance of aviation for not only enjoyment and travel, but for medical emergencies and such.

Here in the Toronto area there are rumbles once again about trying to close the downtown "city center" airport.

These will be the first people to complain the first time their heathcare if effected by the lack of a convenient airport near the downtown area, but it's all NIMBY now, and no rational thought.

Greybeard said...

These must be "interesting" times to be Canadian, Mark!

It's sad and intriguing to sit back and watch the machinations of your government. Canadians are cool...
no shouting, no impolitic behavior noticeable from outside.
But I get the impression that in some cases, the rift between some of the provinces may be greater than the divide between "fly-over country" and the coasts here in the States.

It's gotta be worrisome, being an Aviator, watching freedoms go out the window there.

I wish you good luck!

Aviatrix said...

That's an interesting comment, about the difference between provinces, Greybeard. We have no provinces that are totally urban, like New York. every province has its cities and its hinterland, and there are certainly conflicts there between the people who work for a living, and the people down in the capital who get paid just to move the money around.

And the Anglo-French divide is forever. It's a like your old South: historically a part of the country because of the outcome of a battle, and that doesn't seem to be the best way to build a nation.

We go to the polls soon, so the politicians are making more noise than usual. I think soon we'll have the same penalties for Americans caught smuggling handguns into Canada as Americans do for Canadians caught smuggling marijuana into the US.